Saturday, May 29, 2010

1974. Naturally, the World Cup was the highlight. After the success of 1970 World Cup it was hard to imagine a better tournament, yet it somehow was. New trophy – and not because of some wicked commercial scheme, but by old rules. When the World Cup was established it was written down that whoever wins three titles will keep the Golden Nike forever. Brazil did that in 1970 and new cup had to be made.
Good bye old cup and welcome new cup!
Football changed between 1970 and 1974 and the expectations were high. So was the thrill of arguing who will be better – Europeans playing total football or the South Americans with their superior skills and improvisation. The tournament had new format too – no longer direct elimination after the round robin stage, but another round robin. The best 8 teams were to be divided in 2 new groups and the winners were to play the final. The idea was to provide more games and thus to extend the excitement. There were business interests lurking at the bottom of that – longer competition = bigger profit for TV and sponsors – but the fans were thrilled to be able to see more matches. West Germany was without saying the perfect host – everybody expected impeccable organization, great stadiums, and crystal clear TV broadcasting.
And West Germany did not disappoint. The tournament did not disappoint either – there were surprises shuttering prediction; there were fulfilled predictions; the football was great and diverse, but largely it was the best teams reaching the final. The truly best, unlike many other World Cups. To me this World Cup is the best ever played – and not only to me, because of the quality of football, the drama, and the surprises.
World Cup finals tend to eclipse everything else, but there were other interesting and memorable events in 1974 – or rather during 1973-74 season. The biggest one was the collapse of mighty Ajax. And with it – the change, or the corruption, or the distortion, or the stunting of total football. And more… It is tempting to begin with the pinnacle of the year, but let’s start with trifles and other stuff, which affected the World Cup. 1974 was the year total football triumphed completely. So much was proclaimed at the time, but… was it total football anymore? And if it was not – what triumphed in 1974?